In return to mound, McClellan makes it 'look easy'
Rangers reliever tosses two impressive innings in first outing since last May
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Ten months.
That's about how long Kyle McClellan had to wait to get on a big league mound and face hitters again. He did so on Tuesday afternoon at Surprise Stadium and hardly looked like he had been away that long.
In the words of manager Ron Washington, McClellan, a potentially significant piece to the Rangers' staff, "made it look easy."
McClellan followed Alexi Ogando and Jason Frasor to the mound and pitched two scoreless innings in a 12-3 victory over the Brewers. It's the first time McClellan has pitched in any kind of game since May 17 with the Cardinals. Shoulder problems that ended in surgery July 10 wiped out McClellan's 2012 season.
"I'll take it," McClellan said. "It's just a big relief to get the first one out of the way. Ever since May, I've been working hard. Even though the first one goes smoothly, in the back of your mind you're wondering, 'Am I going to be what I once was?' I felt I was back, getting quick outs and being aggressive in the strike zone."
McClellan retired six of seven batters faced, walking just one. He retired three on grounders and three on popups and was done after an economical 24 pitches.
"He was pounding the strike zone," Washington said. "He had a good sinker and his cutter was working. I don't think they centered the ball on him once. Two easy innings."
Rangers officials were eager to watch McClellan pitch. He spent five seasons with the Cardinals mainly as a reliever, but he has the kind of stuff that scouts believe can work as a starter. He has a changeup, slider, curve and can sink or cut a fastball. The question is his endurance as a starter, especially after the shoulder surgery.
His first appearance in a Cactus League game was delayed by soreness in his shoulder muscles, leaving it questionable if the Rangers have time to stretch him out as a starter by the end of Spring Training. Most likely they will be able to, but he can't have any more physical setbacks.
"The only thing I know is we're going to keep increasing his pitch counts," Washington said.
McClellan said he's not sure what the plan is right now. But he had a big smile after Tuesday's outing.
"I feel I was pretty close to where I need to be," McClellan said.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.